Supermini CUV Hyundai ix20 garners attention
There can be little doubt that the recent ‘scrappage' incentive in the UK was the shot in the arm that the motoring industry needed during the worst of the economic crisis. Some manufacturers benefited more than others however. ‘Scrappage' was seized upon by many drivers as an opportunity to swap a long-owned car for another long-term purchase.
With its five-year warranty and some barely believable bargains on offer, it came as little surprise that it was Korean carmaker Hyundai that really cleaned up in terms of new sales. However, while Hyundai made the most of the temporary scheme, it has no plans to return to normal operating procedures now that car-buyers are on their own again.
The manufacturer has seen sales boom and expects continued growth. Perhaps this is because the company's profile was raised so effectively during the crisis, but undoubtedly the continuing roll out of timely and market relevant new products stands it in good stead. The i10, i20 and i30 have given Hyundai a strong showing in the city, supermini and hatchback segments. The recently launched Tucson (ix35) is the crucial crossover model required for customers who want something smaller than the full-size SUV Santa Fe and big things are predicted for the i40 executive saloon that's due in the near future. For now though, it's the supermini CUV ix20 that's garnering the attention.
If you're slightly confused by the name, you're not alone. Unlike the ix35 the ix20 will not be offered with four-wheel drive. Apparently it's the ‘5' that denotes the off-road chassis; the "ix" prefix denotes a crossover model.
And that's exactly what you get in the new ix20 — a model that fuses the compact dimensions of a hatchback supermini with the interior space and practicality of an MPV.
The cabin room on offer is striking. There are adaptable elements to help make the most of the dimensions such as a tiered boot floor and independently adjustable rear seat positioning, but it's the outright space that's most impressive. Hyundai claims rear seat legroom is greater than that of one of the most popular full-size SUVs on the market and better boot volume than one of the most respected executive estates — neither is hard to believe.
The tall cabin also allows for an advantageous driving position. Even in the base of the three trim levels the adjustable driver's seat height allows for tailoring, the result being a commanding view. Unfortunately, bulky A-pillars restrict the view into corners, but the glass house is a large one anyway, and even with the upwardly sloping rear window line the surround view is good. That window line is part of Hyundai's "Fluidic Design" philosophy, and it gives the ix20 a strong contemporary feel from the outside. Design elements from the exterior are replicated inside for a more upmarket ambience and the highly stylised grille adds to the flair.
Value for money remains key and standard Bluetooth integration and parking sensors add to the appeal. Although the base model is less striking in terms of exterior finish, standard AC and iPod integration is impressive for the segment, and a full length glass roof for the top-spec model can be opened like a normal sunroof.
The ix20's engine line-up is refreshingly simple; a petrol and diesel in 1.4-litre configuration both producing 89bhp. The diesel, combined with a six-speed rather than the petrol's five-speed transmission naturally offers the greatest fuel economy and lowest emissions. A 1.6-litre petrol with 123bhp is offered only with a four-speed automatic gearbox. Weird.
Designed in Europe, the ix20 provides impressive ride quality. The steering also feels direct and responsive, but remains light enough for ease of use around town. The 1.4-litre engine is adequate, but punishes poor gear selection with a lack of pulling power. Fortunately a gear shift indicator informs the driver of the optimum gear for maximum fuel economy, although it sometimes proves wise to ignore it and maintain higher revs when approaching a hill.
Also provided for additional economy is an Intelligent Stop and Go or ISG, a system which shuts the engine down when not in use. It's fairly slick in its operation — curiously it's smoother when starting up than when shutting down but remains unintrusive and requires no additional input from the driver.
Smart models like the ix20 mean that Hyundai can continue to exploit its raised profile. Accommodating, smartly styled and efficient, it's very much of the moment.
At a glance
Hyundai's first supermini MPV/CUV/hatchback fusion, call it what you will, is gunning for the popular Honda Jazz. AC, stop-start technology, Bluetooth connectivity are all standard fare, and we expect top marks safety ratings from the Euro NCAP too. Two 89bhp engines are offered to European buyers, 1.4-litre petrol or diesel, but the 1.6 123bhp motor and a four-speed auto are coming soon. Unfortunately not to the UAE; Hyundai told wheels there are no plans for the ix20.
Specs & ratings